Facial recognition technology is already being used by 15 airports, including three outside the US, to increase the number of pre-approved travellers using the expedited customs process.
During the last three years, CBP – Customs and Border Protection – has been rolling out facial recognition programs at entry ports across the country, including the nation’s international airports. Now, the agency wants to extend the use of technology to their optional Global Entry programme.
The Global Entry programme allows frequent, “low-risk” travellers to bypass traditional border controls and go directly to baggage claim after visiting an automatic kiosk. To date, Global Entry at most airports consists of scanning the traveller’s passport and fingerprint at the machine before clearing them to enter the country.
But from now on, the CBP wants to speed-up the process by offering pre-approved Global Entry travellers the possibility of using facial biometrics, eliminating the need for a passport or digital fingerprint.
The CBP began implementing facial recognition for Global Entry through a pilot scheme at Orlando international airport in June 2018. The programme has since been extended to 14 other airports.
The agency released a privacy impact statement detailing how the programme will roll out at airports across the country, becoming the standard for Global Entry.
Global Entry kiosks already have cameras that take photos of travellers, although many of these will be updated or replaced as the programme is expanded. The CBP also plans to include privacy notices on the upgraded machines informing travellers of the new process.
Images captured by the kiosks will be saved to the Department of Homeland Security’s automated biometric identification system – IDENT, which the agency is in the process of transferring to HART, a new and more advanced cloud-based recognition database.
For greater accuracy when comparing photos for a facial recognition match, priority is given to photographs from travel documents as well as other recent photos.
According to the privacy statement, changing to facial recognition lowers the privacy risk to travellers because the programme already took photographs at the kiosks and no longer needs to collect digital fingerprints.
An important note in the impact statement clarifies that enrolees are not required to use the facial recognition program and can instead opt to use the passport and fingerprint method, which will remain available. Should any technical issues occur during the facial recognition scan, the kiosks will automatically revert to using the passport and digital fingerprint method.
Travellers will also still be required to provide a copy of their passport and fingerprints when signing-up to the Global Entry scheme.